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Workplace Injuries in Manufacturing and Service Sectors in Bangladesh

Workplace injury in Bangladesh is perceived to be high, but the issue has received less attention though workers in Bangladesh are well protected against workplace related accidents, and injuries through Bangladesh Labour Act (BLA), 2006 and Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Act, 2013. The Labour (Amendment) Act 2013 makes a large number of amendments to the BLA 2006 and, particularly, introduces several provisions aimed at improving workplace safety. Even after these new concerns regarding workplace safety, compensation to employees that incurred injuries in the workplace is very the limited. Despite provisions in the BLA, 2006(2013) and constant pressure from international organizations and buyers (RMG only) to improve their working conditions, and to make their buildings more worker-friendly death tolls of workers have not receded in recent years. It has, thus, been necessary to create a broad consensus among the government, employers and workers' organizations about the need for, and the feasibility of, a National Employment Injury Protection and Rehabilitation (NEIPR) scheme to spread the risks of workplace injury across all employers at the national level. The Government of Bangladesh has shown keen interest to work with the ILO in setting up a national employment injury insurance (EII) scheme following the ILO Convention 121 on Employment Injury Benefits that provides a normative reference guide in designing EII benefits and their delivery tailored to local realities. An effective design of NEIPR requires clear idea on the type and extent of workplace injury in key manufacturing and service sectors of Bangladesh. Thus, a comprehensive survey was conducted that reflects on nature and extent of workplace injuries in key manufacturing and service sectors of Bangladesh. Accordingly, quantitative data on accidents, injuries, compensation mechanism and related issues were collected of registered establishments in the following economic sectors: RMG, textiles, cement, ship building, ship breaking, leather (both finished and tannery), pharmaceuticals, construction, real estate, and transportation. This report analyses the findings of that survey.

Safety measures at workplace are quite visible in most of the sectors including emergency doors; availability of medical attendants (doctor/nurse) at the establishments is high across various sectors except leather industries. Presence of a safety committee has been made mandatory (for factories having more than 50 workers) after the incidence of Rana Plaza and most of the factories have one such committee. However, two thirds of the factories in leather and ship building sectors do not have such committees. The role of such committees is crucial for ensuring occupational safety and health. This is also evident that half of the factories in critical sectors like cement and ship breaking sectors do not hold fire drill on regular intervals.

Sectors vary across exposure to hazards. The risks of hazards increase when machineries are inadequately guarded or fenced as workers who are not very much familiar with the operations may be drawn closer than advised otherwise. It is noted that establishments in all the sectors under consideration are heavily exposed to handling/lifting of heavy (more than 10 kg) materials/objects. Exposures to chemicals, especially corrosive, flammable, or poisonous ones are also particularly hazard to workers. The most common source of accidents in manufacturing sectors is hit by objects. Falling from heights and fall of objects are two other notable sources of accidents. The nature of casualties depends on the source of injuries. It is noted that employers try to compensate for workplace injuries with explicitly or implicitly. The workers have also agreed to the claim of employers regarding the compensation for various consequences of injuries including death and permanent disabilities. However, the more could be done to ensure safe workplace for all workers.

In the services sectors like construction, real estate and transportation, many temporary workers are working who are more vulnerable towards health consequences of injuries. Changes in technology in manufacturing sectors not only have made the respective sectors more productive abut also have exposed workers towards new type of vulnerabilities as unguarded machines and lack of knowledge regarding the handling of those materials could lead to accidents. Thus, introduction of new technologies should take account of the safety risks associated with them. Many of the injuries could be avoided if the workers are supplied with safety gadgets. Specially, the temporary workers are not supplied safety gadgets and it remains the responsibility of the workers to purchase them. As a result, many workers perform risky jobs without precaution.

It may not be possible to stop accidents in various economic sectors, but appropriate preventive and curative measures could be taken to lessen the incidences and mitigate the severity of injuries. Even workers could join their job quickly after encountering an accident if they get timely compensation for their injury.

The following recommendations are made in this study. i) Workers of every sector should be introduced to the possible hazards of the activities they are performing; ii) They should be supplied with proper safety gadgets (even for temporary workers); iii) Fire drill should take place regularly; iv) Wherever and whenever possible, less risky technologies should be introduced to reduce manual works; v) Proper compensation package should be developed for workers so that they get better and timely medical services in case of emergency; vi) Every factory should have functional safety committee. The committee should have regular meetings; vii) Safety related stickers, leaflets, posters, should be developed and distributed among the employees.

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